An Interview with Andrew Campanella: National School Choice Week

Nov 13, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Andrew, first can you tell us about yourself, and what exactly you are trying to accomplish.

Thanks for the opportunity. To answer the last part first: National School Choice Week is working to raise public awareness of the need for, and benefits of, school choice. We want far more people in local communities across the country to know that they do have choices when it comes to their children’s education. And in places where parents don’t have choices, National School Choice Week provides a chance for folks to speak out and demand greater opportunities.

People who participate in National School Choice Week come from different backgrounds and have different philosophies. Some of them just support expanding public school choice in traditional districts. Others support public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private school choice, and homeschooling. During National School Choice Week, everyone can get together and celebrate, in a positive way, the benefits of empowering parents with options.

Not every conversation about education in America has to be dire and depressing. As for me, I’m the son of a public school teacher (my mom), and I went to public schools my whole life. My background is communications, and what I love most about this work is interacting with schools, teachers, and parents. It has given me a new perspective on the importance of giving every child as personalized an education as possible.

2) Now tell us about this coming “School Choice Week “.

It’s going to be huge! From January 26 to February 1, 2014, there will be more than 5,000 events all across the country, everything from open houses at schools to rallies at statehouses, to house parties held by individual families. (And events in places other than ‘houses,’ too!) Anyone can get involved, anyone can plan an event, and every event counts. The focus of National School Choice Week is to shine a positive spotlight on the benefits of school choice, and because of that, the Week gives schools the opportunity to share their successes in a public way, and it gives school choice supporters and advocates the opportunity to stand together and celebrate the benefits of all types of educational options.

3) Over the past ten years, how much progress has been made in opening up the public to the issues surrounding school choice?

There’s been tremendous growth in public awareness and support for all different types of school choice, and more Americans are actively choosing their children’s schools or education environments than ever before. However, I don’t think there has been enough progress in letting parents know what options they have. Almost every time I attend an event or travel, I hear the same thing from parents, telling me “I don’t know if I have choices.” People haven’t been conditioned to think that they should have choices when it comes to their children’s education, in some respects. And still, there are millions of families that still, actually, don’t have enough choices.

4) What has been the response of the folks in Washington to your movement? (If any?)

I’ve always believed that some of the best policies come from the states, and I think that’s been evident in the support National School Choice Week has seen from governors, mayors, and state legislatures. In 2013, 29 governors and more than a dozen mayors, from both sides of the aisle, issued proclamations in support of National School Choice Week. Of course, there are many leaders in Washington, Democratic and Republican, who are supporters of school choice in its many different forms.

5) I know that many parents want their child schooled in a very religious, spiritual, Christian environment. Is this part of your agenda?

The only agenda we have is to raise awareness of choice in education. If a parent wants to choose a religious or faith-oriented school for their children, I think they should be empowered to do so. There is tremendous research to show that for some children, learning in a faith-based environment (whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Islamic, etc.) can be incredibly effective. But that isn’t the case for every child, and that’s another reason it’s important to have robust choice. Among the schools that participate in National School Choice Week, we have all types, from traditional public schools to magnet schools, charter schools, private schools (independent and faith-based), and online learning — as well as homeschooling groups. It spans the spectrum.

6) What do you see as the differences in “ school choice “ versus home schooling? Or do you recognize that as a choice?

We recognize homeschooling as an active educational choice that parents can make — and should not be restricted from making — for their children. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice and dedication for a parent to educate their child or children in the home, and we celebrate homeschooling equally during National School Choice Week.

7) What do you hear from people via e-mail and phone across the United States regarding school choice?

Most people I talk with support school choice, but folks have a lot of questions. It’s important to remember that no one sector of education can own the phrase “school choice.” It’s not just about one type of school or one type of choice, it’s about empowering parents to make those choices for their children. The best calls and e-mails I get are from schools, teachers and parents who share how they’ve benefited from participated in National School Choice Week. That’s what reminds me why our work is important.

8) I understand that you are going to use something called “ Twitter “ ( of which I am not a member) Tell us about this approach.

Ha! Yes, you should join Twitter! We’re holding a few different Twitter “parties,” or “Tweet Ups,” using the hashtag #SchoolChoiceWorks, in an effort to get folks to be more vocal in this conversation about education. It’s really a conversation about the future of every single child and as a result, the future of our country. Too often, folks are fighting or sniping at each other online. We’re trying to bring folks together.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

Well, you didn’t ask if I wanted to give a shameless plug, so here it is: if folks want to get involved and host an event, they can get a complimentary Event Kit to hold an event in their home here: www.schoolchoiceweek.com/familynight.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you!

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